Food nourishes our bodies and during every stage of life from infancy to elderly our food choices matter. From toddlers to teens, parents, grandparents, and adult caregivers are responsible for the three w’s: what foods are offered, and when and where they’re eaten. Children are responsible for whether to eat the foods offered and how much.
Obviously, it is important for the adults to be good role models for the children. Children look up to and learn from their parents, grandparents, and teachers. Children who eat meals and snacks that are rich in nutrients at a young age are more likely to maintain those good habits as they grow older. It is often easy and convenient to slip into unhealthy eating habits, but with some effort and practice changes can be made for better lifestyle choices. Keep these tips in mind while working toward breaking unhealthy food habits in children.
- Be a good role model when it comes to healthy eating, mealtime behavior, and active living. Ask yourself… did you eat your vegetables today? Did you take a walk or do something physically active, not just sit by the T.V. or computer? Did you eat a handful of chips or the whole bag?
- Choose and prepare a variety of nutritious foods (both familiar and new foods for children to choose from). Let them feel as though they have some control over their food choices. If they don’t like the food, no problem. Don’t force it, but try again. Sometimes it takes over 15 times of trying.
- Set a routine for eating (a stick to it!). Pick the time and place. Even if everyone cannot be there, eat as a family several times a week, if not daily. Keep family mealtime positive!
- Let them be responsible for listening to their body cues as to when they are hungry, satisfied, or full. But, feel free to talk to them about how it feels to eat too much or not enough and how it feels to eat just enough. Ask them how eating certain foods make them feel physically and mentally. Teach them that food provides energy.
Helping provide children with a lifelong habit of a healthy relationship with food will help them live a more productive and enjoyable life. For National Nutrition Month contemplate you and your children’s eating habits and come up with a plan to work on those changes that need to be made.
Tune into KIBS 100.7, Monday thru Friday, around 7:15 am to listen to our weekly “Health Tips From Toiyabe!”
Shannon Beasley MPH, RD
Toiyabe Indian Health Project